Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld


Welcome to Queensland's gateway to gardening - a collection of news, information, resources and ideas of interest to gardeners, especially residents of Queensland, Australia.

Get Results Gardening 15/11/19
      TOP PLANTS: Dwarf Umbrella Tree Schefflera arboricola
      GARDEN PROFILE: The Giving Garden
      BASICS: Plant Rusts Part One
      LOCAL NEWS: Winning Landscapes

Get Results Gardening is a weekly mini-magazine delivered via email. It offers high-quality gardening information for SE Qld while keeping the inexperienced and even the reluctant gardener in mind. Easy plants, timely tips, ideas, motivation. Get a 3 month free trial subscription. To receive the above edition in your inbox, email before 10am Friday 15/11/19.

Garden Events 2020

Organising a garden show, open garden or similar event in Qld in 2020? If you already have a date locked in, you can submit it NOW for inclusion in the Queensland Gardening Events Diary. You can send in additional details (key attractions, opening times, etc) closer to the event if you wish, but adding your date ASAP will give you more exposure to potential visitors and stallholders. Basic text listings (which do include a website link) are free. Featured listings are also available for a modest fee. Go to the Queensland Gardening Events Diary for more information.

Featured Article

From Drought to Dengue

Tank with damage to the sieve. Image: CSIRO     

The return of rainwater tanks to South East Queensland may also see the return of dengue fever, suggests a recently published study.

Temperatures in tanks and buckets were monitored at several sites across Brisbane through the 2014 winter. Then Aedes aegypti - a mosquito species responsible for transmitting dengue, Zika and other diseases - was cultured under similar conditions.

It was found that the insect was capable of completing its lifecycle through a Brisbane winter. Brisbane was previously considered too cool and dry to support Aedes aegypti year-round.

Disconnected outflow. Image: CSIRO

The revival in home water collection and storage means standing water persisting for at least 32 days is now common throughout the suburbs. The research showed that tanks or buckets could potentially breed the mosquitoes, tanks having advantages in terms of higher humidity and moderated temperatures in the air cavity.

Screening of tanks will be important to preventing future dengue outbreaks, but the researchers observed native mosquito species Aedes notoscriptus in "sealed" tanks throughout the winter. They suggest that water trapped in gutters and pipes (including first flush devices) could be the source.

Aided by rotting leaves, these reservoirs become infested with eggs and larvae that are washed into tanks with the next rainfall. Adults that develop are able to escape from even tiny gaps in screens or seals.

Aedes aegypti was common in Brisbane in the early decades of the twentieth century, probably due to the number of unsealed rainwater tanks and other storages. As these were phased out, the species largely disappeared from the region. Without rigorous maintenance of the twenty-first century's water harvesting systems, the mosquito and its diseases could again pose a significant threat.

The Garden Scene

More news about plants and gardens in Queensland, plus other useful and interesting horticultural news from around the world.

Antibiotics and Soil

Antibiotics are used extensively in animal production and some wind up in the manure. Research from America comparing fields fertilised with manure from treated and untreated dairy cattle has indeed shown multiple effects. Changes in soil microbiology and the use of carbon and nitrogen by plants was demonstrated. Less carbon was stored in the soil. For some time, the potential for development of resistance has been a major concern with respect to the overuse of antibiotics, but these results point to a range of possible impacts on agriculture and environment as well. Source: New research finds multiple effects on soil from exposure to manure from cows administered antibiotics (October, 2019)

Fraser Coast Champs

Fraser Coast Regional Council’s School Water and Waste Wise Garden Competition has awarded two joint Grand Champions this year - Kawungan State School and Urangan High School. Organised with the participation of Wide Bay Water and Waste Services, a major objective of the competition is to encourage water-wise gardening and recycling. Besides directing food scraps to chickens and worms instead of landfill, students have repurposed building materials for garden projects and incorporated a range of water-saving plants and techniques into their garden designs. Full results: Fraser Coast school garden competition winners announced (October, 2019)

Logan's Angle on Myrtle Recovery

The angle-stemmed myrtle (Gossia gonoclada) is one of Queensland's rarest plants. It has only been found growing naturally in Brisbane and Logan, the latter being home to 33 of 73 known individuals. Logan City Council has been active in conservation of this endangered species. Habitats - near the Albert and Logan Rivers - have been mapped and propagation undertaken. To date, 160 new Gossia gonoclada saplings have been planted along these waterways. The council's strategy for the next ten years is outlined in the recently announced City of Logan Gossia gonoclada Recovery Plan 2019-2029. This includes developing cost-effective activities, facilitating community engagement in conservation projects and working with other programs in the region. (September, 2019)

Queensland Peony Breakthrough

Growing peonies in the subtropics was never a practical proposition before, but breakthrough research at the University of the Sunshine Coast means that peonies could soon become a valuable cut flower crop in Queensland. Biologist Krista Bogiatzis began working on the problem at USC in 2015 and has now determined the exact combination of temperature and growing conditions to get them to bloom in the subtropics. What's more, they can be timed to take advantage of high-demand and under-supplied periods in other regions. For the local market, Queensland-grown flowers avoids the risks, costs and quality issues associated with importation of live product. (September, 2019)

Horticultural Rehabilitation

A 5-year study tracked released prisoners to see if horticultural community service, done as part of probation or parole requirements, could reduce the likelihood of individuals re-offending. Indeed, those involved in some form of horticultural work were less likely to recidivate than those doing non-horticultural tasks. Of the non-horticultural group, those working outdoors fared better than those indoors. Any form of community service was, on average, much better than none at all at helping former prisoners find a new place in society but exposure to nature seems to have additional positive influence. Source: Combating Prison Recidivism with Plants. Full report: The Effect of Horticultural Community Service Programs on Recidivism (September, 2019)

Anzac Square Renovation Declared Complete

A massive program of restoration and improvement of Brisbane's Anzac Square is officially done and dusted. Work included repair and preservation of heritage structures and new bronze screens with the names of over 2000 Queensland towns that have contributed service men and women. In the landscape, ponds have been repaired and historic trees and statues protected. Source: Magnificent Anzac Square restoration complete (August, 2019)

Look to the Trees

A recently published study conducted in Australia is in line with international research that a vegetated landscape is good for us. What's more, it indicates that the presence of trees is crucial. Data was collected from residents of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle aged over 45. It was found that 30% or more tree canopy cover in the district was associated with lower odds of psychological distress while but that an equivalent area of just grass actually increased them. Similar results were found with respect to self-reported feelings of general health. Low-lying vegetation did not seem to have much effect one way or another. Sources: Urban trees found to improve mental and general health, Association of Urban Green Space With Mental Health and General Health Among Adults in Australia. (July, 2019)

Age of Logan Resident Revealed

A blue gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) already recognised as one of Logan's oldest trees has been scientifically dated to about 378 years old. Differences in resistance (indicating the rings) were measured by probing the trunk. The tree has now been officially named "Gandalf". It's located on private property at North Maclean. With the cooperation of other landholders, Logan City Council is hoping to expand its tree age testing program to catalogue historic trees throughout the city. Source: Logan’s Gandalf is a grand old tree (July, 2019)

Butt litter bad for plants

Surprisingly, the effects of discarded cigarette butts on terrestrial plant growth has not been studied until now. Recently released experimental results from the UK, however, have shown that they do indeed impact plants - and not in a good way. Germination success and subsequent growth of clover and ryegrass was found to be reduced by the presence of cigarette butts in the soil. It would appear that most of the damage was caused by the filters, regardless of whether the cigarette was smoked or not. It's thought that the cellulose acetate component and/or plasticising chemicals used in their manufacture caused the observed seedling inhibition. Source: Cigarette butts hamper plant growth - study (July, 2019)

Crave nature instead

Research has found that simply being able to see nature where you live reduces cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and junk food. This could be having access to a garden or even just good residential views, provided they comprise more than 25% green space. Source: Seeing greenery linked to less intense and frequent cravings, University of Plymouth (July, 2019)

Coping with cottonwoods

The vigour and dominating nature of coastal stalwart Hibiscus tiliaceus (cottonwood tree or cotton tree) has presented some management concerns for Sunshine Coast Regional Council. The based on results of a new report, Council is proposing a change of management at two pilot locations at Shelley Beach. This includes removal of some trees and pruning of others to reduce density and lift the canopies, improving visibility for the safety of people on foot (including those using the toilet block) and in cars. Trees removed will be replaced with other native species meeting the amenity requirements of these areas, which will also increase ecological diversity. Outcomes at these test locations will inform maintenance decisions elsewhere in the region. More information including full report is available from Sunshine Coast Regional Council here: Cottonwood tree study. (July, 2019)

Smelly sea breezes

Tweed Shire Council has been receiving complaints about foul odours from residents suspecting a sewage leak. Investigations have identified the culprits - fruiting mangrove trees. The grey mangrove (Avicennia marina) began fruiting prolifically a few weeks previously and the fallen fruits have been accumulating in parts of the estuary. The hydrogen sulphide gas produced as they decompose has the same "rotten egg" smell as sewage. The strength of the odour seems to depend on a combination of fruit quantity, weather conditions and tides. Source: Mangroves are the source of sewage-like smells in Tweed. (July, 2019)

Drought defeats garden competition

The Lockyer Valley Garden Competition, normally a part of the Laidley Spring Festival, has been put on hold because of the drought. Lockyer Valley Regional Council decided this was preferable to encouraging any unnecessary water use. However, residents can still register to open their gardens to the public during the Festival if they choose. More information here: Garden Comp on hold for 2019. (June, 2019)

New city hall a breath of fresh air

Sunshine Coast Regional Council has revealed designs for its proposed new City Hall. The landscaping will be an important part of the overall concept, incorporating balconies and rootop. Plant-covered arbours will shade outdoor dining areas in the precinct. All is designed to reflect region's native plants and terrain. Construction is expected to begin in 2020. Source: Local environment the inspiration for proposed City Hall design Sunshine Coast Regional Council (June, 2019)

Gympie gave macadamias to the world

New genetic research by the University of Queensland and Southern Cross University has tracked the origins of the first macadamias grown commercially (in Hawaii) to a small population at Mooloo, north-west of Gympie. It's even possible that the global macadamia industry that subsequently developed is based on seed collected from a single tree. This means there's still lots of potential for further improvement and adaptation of the crop through breeding, taking the advantage of genetic diversity in native populations. Source: Gympie identified as birthplace of global macadamia industry (May, 2019)

Sunshine Coast verge gardens

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council have made it easier for residents to establish verge gardens with an amendment to the local law. Provided gardens conform to self-assessable criteria, planting can occur without having to submit an application or get public liability insurance. The criteria include rules about plant heights, setbacks and access requirements. Any plants installed must be on the associated road verge planting list. Note that gardens containing plants not on the approved list or that fall outside the self-assessable criteria in any other way will still need a permit. For more information, go to at the Sunshine Coast Regional Council website. (May, 2019)

Cultivate health

A new analysis of US data has shown that even quite short periods of moderate physical activity - which includes gardening - could improve health. Just 10-59 minutes per week was associated with a 18% lower risk of death from any cause, compared to people who were inactive. More time or more vigorous activity had even better effects. Source: Even low levels of leisure time physical activity lowers risk of death In another study published in the same month, a 14% reduction in risk of death was observed among low-activity participants who replaced 30 minutes of sitting time per day with light physical activity.Source: Replacing Sitting Time with Physical Activity Associated with Lower Risk of Death Mar 25, 2019 (March, 2019)

North Stradbroke Island preserves rainfall record

Paper-bark tea tree leaves preserved in Swallow Lagoon on North Stradbroke Island have been used to investigate south-east Queensland's weather over the last 7000 years. Using variation in carbon isotope composition, moisture stress experienced by then-growing leaves can be determined. The period 5000 to 6000 years ago was found to be wet, but more variable and increasingly dry about 3000 years ago. Severe droughts during this phase suggests that the probability of something worse than the 1997-2009 Millennium Drought occurring in the future may be higher than the one in 10,000 years currently predicted. It also appears that Queensland was colonised at the end of an unusually wet period, The Little Ice Age (about 1450 to 1850). Source: Preserved leaves reveal 7000 years of rainfall and drought (February, 2019)

Platypuses in the Albert

Following a reported sighting in 2017, environmental DNA (eDNA) samples were taken from Logan City's Albert River during last year's breeding season. This has established the presence of animals in two sites at Wolffdene and one at Cedar Creek. Small amounts of platypus DNA were found at four other sites. The exact locations will remain secret. Source: Science confirms platypus living in Logan's Albert River(March 2019)

Bee involved

As a part of their "Our Natural City" strategy, Gold Coast City Council has recently launched an initiative to help native bees. It's proposed that owners of properties over 1200m2 could be subsidised to purchase native bee hives. There may also be an opportunity to work with local bee experts, although hives only need maintenance every 12-18 months or so. Stingless bee keeping workshops offered as part of the City's NaturallyGC program are another way for residents to learn about native bees. Source: Native bees have Gold Coast Mayor buzzing (March 2019)

Brisbane community composting expands

Brisbane's 20th community composting hub has recently opened in association with the Graceville Community Garden. Instead of sending kitchen scraps and green waste to landfill, participating residents can take it to a composting hub to be turned into something useful. Source: Sustainability growing through community composting (February, 2019)

Happy trails

Work at Eumundi Conservation Park has recently improved a poorly drained section to allow its whole network of trails to be enjoyed in all weather. Source: Source: Eumundi Conservation Park trail network complete (March, 2019). In Brisbane, the Summit Track in the Mt Coot-tha precinct is about to get an upgrade, too. Erosion cause by high foot traffic and water runoff will be addressed with resurfacing plus new handrails. A new trail from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens to the Mt Coot-tha Summit is expected to open later this year. Source: Mt Coot-tha precinct upgrade delivers better trails (February, 2019)

Cities scale up pest attack

Recent research recording the incidence in several American cities of a debilitating scale on a species of maple tree predicted larger insect populations in the warmer south than the cooler north. Instead, they found the amount of impervious concrete and asphalt in the vicinity of the tree was more strongly correlated with infestation levels than temperature. Source: Dying Trees in Cities? Blame It on the Concrete (March, 2019)

Some older news items of continuing interest have been moved to appropriate subject pages. Check the Guide to Pages or use the search function at the top of the page. Older news about the health and social benefits will be collected in a new page: Effect of gardens & gardening on human health.


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